One of the most polarizing topics in all of entertainment is “race-swapping,” or intentionally changing the race of established characters.
Some notable recent examples of race-swapping include Velma of Scooby-Doo fame (she went from being white to Indian), the Little Mermaid (yes, she’s half-fish, but her human half has gone from white to black) and a whole medley of characters from “Peter Pan.”
You’ll note that all of those characters are fictitious. It’s much easier to claim “creative license” when tweaking a person who never actually existed.
In a more recent trend, however, filmmakers are race-swapping real people.
A high-profile example involves the newly announced Cleopatra documentary series coming to Netflix.
For the unaware, Cleopatra’s ancestry is traced to the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty. And not to delve too deep into pigmentation, but people of Macedonian Ptolemaic descent are generally considered bronze-, olive- or honey-skinned.
And yet, if you watch the trailer for “Queen Cleopatra,” you’ll notice that the eponymous Egyptian monarch is neither bronze-, olive- nor honey-skinned.
Netflix’s Cleopatra is clearly a black woman (actress Adele James is of mixed race) — and that was a very intentional choice, according to the film’s director.
“Why shouldn’t Cleopatra be a melanated sister? And why do some people need Cleopatra to be white? Her proximity to whiteness seems to give her value, and for some Egyptians it seems to really matter,” director Tina Gharavi wrote for Variety.
Nobody needs Cleopatra to be white. There’s just very little evidence that she was black. (If she were, it would have come from her mother’s side and would have been a small part of her racial identity. That branch of Cleopatra’s lineage is very murky.)
“We need to have a conversation with ourselves about our colorism, and the internalized white supremacy that Hollywood has indoctrinated us with,” Gharavi added.
The director saved her most noteworthy revelation for the final paragraph:
“It’s almost as if we don’t realize that misogynoir still has an effect on us today. We need to liberate our imaginations, and boldly create a world in which we can explore our historical figures without fearing the complexity that comes with their depiction,” she wrote.
“I am proud to stand with ‘Queen Cleopatra’ — a re-imagined Cleopatra — and with the team that made this. We re-imagined a world over 2,000 years ago where once there was an exceptional woman who ruled.
“I would like to draw a direct line from her to the women in Egypt who rose up in the Arab uprisings, and to my Persian sisters who are today rebelling against a brutal regime. Never before has it been more important to have women leaders: white or Black.”
So to recap, Netflix has race-swapped Cleopatra to help push the following agendas:
- “Whiteness” is bad and shouldn’t matter so much to Egyptians!
- Hollywood is racist!
- Girl power!
The series may be looking to push agendas, but Egypt is pushing back.
According to Newsweek, Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary has submitted a complaint with the nation’s public prosecutor seeking legal action against Netflix and the makers of “Queen Cleopatra.”
“Most of what [the] Netflix platform displays [does] not conform to Islamic and societal values and principles, especially Egyptian ones,” al-Semary said.
It’s unclear where al-Semary’s lawsuit will go, but what is clear is that people are sick and tired of empty-calorie race swaps that do little more than push leftist talking points about racism, sexism or any other “-ism” du jour.
One final point that this writer is compelled to make: Ghavari wants to tout the importance of “white or Black” women leaders and completely misses the point of the Cleopatra backlash. She was neither white nor black, no matter how badly you want to make this a black-and-white racial grievance.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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